Race Time: 2.35pm Meeting: Kempton Day: Sunday 27th December 2015 Full Race Name: William Hill Handicap Chase Class Two
Not the easiest handicap we have ever looked in to as we are sure you will agree, but past years have seen Nicky Henderson win two of the eight renewals but then as he hasn’t got an entry at the overnight stage, that information is rendered redundant! Open Hearted (20/1) is left to carry top weight of eleven stone twelve for trainer Dan Skelton, but he has stepped in and booked the excellent Bridget Andrews to ride and she is certainly good value for her five pound claim off the horse’s back. A course winner and a distance winner (here over two miles five in March 2013 and at Fakenham over the trip in October this year) but saw his rating go up seven pounds, which won’t make his life any easier. For some reason they sent him over hurdles last time out, perhaps to try and exploit a lower handicap mark, but it didn’t work and he was only eleventh of twelve (beaten eighty-seven lengths) at Newbury, and may struggle to get back to winning form here.
Young trainer Harry Fry has his string in good form as always and in Opening Batsman (14/1) he may well have a serious contender here if he is back to his peak. A course and distance winner off a rating just three pounds lower in February 2013, he is a strapping sort who is tactically adaptable (can be brought with a run or make all if necessary), and jumps like a stag, and with a run at Limerick in October to blow away any cobwebs he has an excellent each way chance this afternoon though obviously that depends on the final prices.
Last season saw Tom George take the race with Ballinvarig (10/1) and here he is again, another year older and carrying just a pound more which is very little over three miles. Those who follow trainer patterns will note that he appears to have been targetted at this race as his early season objective with just the one run when finishing a very tired fourth over two miles five furlongs at Ascot, and although he hasn’t run that well since last year, he clearly comes alive here. One win and one second at the track from three runs proves just that, and with Paddy Brennan expected to ride, he has every chance of following up this afternoon, though it is as competitive as last year or more so at first glance.
Polly Gundry was an excellent jockey and is making a pretty decent job of things as a trainer as well and she may have a decent one on her hands in Harry’s Farewell (16/1), one of the few entries who won last time out, and a likely improver. If there were awards for consistency he would be a winner with fourteen races in total (including two point to points), for six victories, three seconds and four thirds, and has each way steal written all over him! Despite looking in need of a run he still managed to win on his return to action at Newbury despite a bad blunder at the third last fence, and although he has been put up a further seven pounds for that win, the added fitness today will possibly balance that out.
To round things off for now we really like the look of Ned Stark (7/1) and have hopefully saved the best for last! Alan King has his horses in rude health while Denis O’Regan is as good as it gets in the saddle. He has been running in what we see as better races so far this season, beaten eleven lengths in to sixth behind Pendra at Ascot and then eighth of fifteen to Smad Place at Newbury in the Hennessy Gold Cup when possibly outclassed. With those two runs under his belt he will be cherry rip for this afternoon’s contest and having been put down a further three pounds we feel he is very well handicapped – lets hope we have that right!